Phoenix will continue to soldier on without Calvin Abueva

There are a lot of interesting storylines for each team as we open another PBA season on Sunday, March 8. Several ESPN5.com writers covering the league examine and look at the different PBA teams, highlighting the storyline for each, heading into the 2020 Philippine Cup.


Additions: Jay-R Reyes (free agency), Jansen Rios (free agency), Brian Heruela (trade), Willy Wilson (retired as player, now an assistant coach)

Subtractions: Doug Kramer (retired), LA Revilla, Rey Guevarra, Ron Dennison

Holdovers: Mike Gamboa, Jason Perkins, Davon Potts, JC Intal, Jake Pascual, Alex Mallari, RR Garcia, RJ Jazul, Jorey Napoles, Justin Chua, Dave Marcelo

The lowdown

It seems that the Fuel Masters will have to get used to playing small-ball for the foreseeable future after the retirement of veteran Doug Kramer, compounded by the injuries to Jake Pascual (ACL) and Dave Marcelo (bone spur) in the weeks leading up to the new PBA season.

Pascual is out for the conference, while Marcelo is expected to return during the latter part of the Philippine Cup. Calvin Abueva, who was Phoenix's best rebounder in last season's all-Filipino conference, remains suspended indefinitely.

That leaves Jason Perkins, who is nursing a shoulder injury but is expected to suit up in the opener, and 35-year-old Jay-R Reyes, who is not yet at full strength, with the daunting task of manning the paint for the Fuel Masters.

Head coach Louie Alas has no other recourse but to make do with the remaining cards on his deck.

"We'll just make the most of the players available at the moment. If we have to play small ball, we will," said Alas. "We have no choice. The players have to be sharp. Some will have to play outside of their comfort zones."

But who knows, if it's working for the Houston Rockets in the NBA, maybe it will for the Fuel Masters. After all, Phoenix is a team that doesn't back down in the face of adversity.

Biggest question heading into the season: When will 'The Beast' be unleashed?

Abueva remains tied to a leash, with the lifting of his suspension still hanging in the balance.

No one knows about when he would see action again but commissioner Willie Marcial and "The Beast," who has been suspended for nearly 9 months now.

Abueva got suspended after the clothesline on TNT import Terrence Jones during the Commissioner's Cup last season.

"He's in the second stage now. I'm asking him to do something. We talked about this," Marcial said.